The Conjuring (2013)

Originally released on July 19th, 2013 (United States)

Plot Synopsis

Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) are called in to deal with strange happenings with the Perron family. Roger Perron (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) moved to a farmhouse where their family begins being played with by malevolent spirits. They decided to call the Warrens after hearing about their dealing with the cursed doll Annabelle. The Warrens are able to help the family, but their story isn’t over as they return home and place a box from the family in their room of artifacts from all of their cases. The movie ends with the box inexplicably opening and playing music.

Review

I find this movie scarier than Annabelle (2014)–mostly because the story of the Warrens in real life is such an interesting one. The story of the Warrens is at the core of the rest of these movies, all of them being part of what has come to be known as the Conjuring Universe–movies following different individual paths but that are all woven together. I also find this movie to be enjoyable because of it’s suspense and pacing, once again focusing on a spirit that is wreaking havoc on a family. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play their roles well, stepping into rather large footsteps when portraying such famous names in the world of ghosts, demons and the supernatural. Annabelle (2014) came out after this one, so it is safe to say that this movie laid the foundation for the movies that followed.

It is no wonder why this universe encompasses some of my favorite horror movies. Have you guys seen this one? If you have, what did you think of it, and if you haven’t, what has kept you from doing so?

Annabelle (2014)

Originally released on October 3rd, 2014

Lets officially take a dive into the first official movie I’ll be talking about that is part of the Conjuring Universe.

This movie begins with the Form family comprised of John Form (Ward Horton) and Mia Form (Annabelle Wallis). Mia Form is pregnant, and as a gift for their unborn daughter, John gives his wife a rare porcelain doll. One night, the couple is disturbed from their sleep as a home invasion takes place next door. John goes to see what is happening while Mia stays behind and calls the police. John is attacked by the killers, but the police arrive and kill one of the assailants–the man, while the woman commits suicide in the nursery, slitting her throat while holding the doll. The killers turn out to be the estranged daughter of the neighbors and her unidentified boyfriend, both of whom were known to be in a cult.

As with all movies in this universe, paranormal activity begins occuring over the next few days. Mia gives birth to a healthy baby girl named Leah, who becomes the sole obsession of the malevolent spirit. Mia reaches out to the detective who dealt with the home invasion in order to find out more about the cult–and with the help of a bookstore owner and fellow tenant Evelyn (Alfre Woodard) they learn that the cult practiced devil worshipping and hoped to summon supernatural creatures. They were successful, and Mia learns that a demon has latched onto them in hopes of claiming a soul.

It’s all a very scary scheme to get Mia’s soul, the demon using a priest’s body as a way to get into the apartment and abduct Leah. Mia is standing on the edge of the window with the doll in her hands, ready to sacrifice herself for her child when Evelyn stops her. Evelyn has had her own demons to deal with, having felt immense guilt over the death of her daughter Ruby in a car accident while she was driving. She decides to give her own life as atonement. Six months later we watch as the doll is bought from an antique shop, meaning that her story isn’t over yet.

Thoughts

I remember seeing this film in theaters when it came out, and I remember how scared I was. Especially knowing that the story of Annabelle is one that the Warrens, the duo the Conjuring Universe draw inspiration from, have told is true. I find this movie scarier than the Insidious franchise, only because of my own aversion to dolls. They creep me out and I don’t like them. I remember being caught off guard by Evelyn’s death, but most importantly, the jump scares in this one were enough to genuinely frighten me.

Have you guys seen this one? What did you think?

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

Originally released on June 5th 2015

This story takes place years before the events of Insidious (2011) and Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) and it follows Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) who has suffered a terrible loss. Her mother, Lily, died one year prior to the beginning of the movie. She desperately wants to be given the chance to speak to her mother again so she seeks out now retired demonologist Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) for help. Rainier tries to help, and ends up telling her not to try and contact her mother again due to a malevolent spirit that can be sensed. Elise has come to refuse to enter into ‘The Further’ after she realizes that there is a spirit that is hunting her down, and she’s sure that this spirit will be the reason she dies. This spirit, is the Bride in Black, aka the spirit that possesses Josh Lambert in the second movie.

This is the movie where Specs, Tucker and Elise form a partnership that follows them to the Lamberts later on. We as the audience truly understand by this point, that the story is about Elise and not the people she helps. While they are a big part of the storyline, it is still Elise’s story that we are watching unfold. She truly is a selfless character because she is warned from the beginning that her life will end by the hands of the Bride in Black, but this doesn’t keep her from choosing to help people using her abilities.

Personally, this movie was hard to watch at times. There’s a specific scene where Quinn’s legs are broken but she is possessed and begins walking on them, and the crunching sounds that occur are enough to make me wretch. On that same note, this movie held my attention since we were introduced to other characters besides the Lamberts, and yet it all still ties together. So far I’d have to rank the Insidious films as follows (from best to worst):

Insidious (2011)
Insidious: Chapter 3
Insidious: Chapter 2

Do you guys agree with my ranking? Why or why not?

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Originally released in the United States on September 13th 2013

Insidious: Chapter 2 continues the story we came to be familiar with from the first movie; Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson & Rose Byrne) have three kids. Dalton (Ty Simpkins), Foster (Andrew Astor) and a daughter named Cali. If you recall, at the end of Insidious, Josh has just killed Elise Ranier (Lin Shaye) but no one but the audience knows that.

Chapter 2 primarily focuses on the possession of Josh Lambert, who we come to find out is possessed by the woman in black, who turns out to be a man by the name of Parker Crane (Tom Fitzpatrick), who in life, was known as the “The Bride in Black” because he would dress in black and kill young women. Elise’s coworkers Tucker and Specs (Leigh Whannell & Angus Sampson) meet Carl (Steve Coulter) who used to work Elise. Together they uncover the truth about Parker Crane and show up at the Lambert’s house to help Josh and his family.

In ‘The Further’, Josh, Carl and Elise are trying to find Parker so that they can get rid of him for the sake of those in the real world. They find out that when he was younger, Parker was forced to wear dresses and his mother called him ‘Marilyn’ and when he got older, he was killing young women at the behest of his mother’s spirit. (Very Friday the 13th) In the end though, the Lamberts are able to reunite and all seems well.

From this point on, the Insidious franchise does not look back at the Lamberts. Their part is over.

My thoughts

Not as good as its predecessor but still a scary movie, I like that Elise still had a role to play despite being dead. The scares in the first film had a lot more to do with tension and creep-factor whereas this one was a lot more in your face scary. I think Patrick Wilson’s acting in this was really good considering how we got to watch the descent into madness as he was being told to kill his family. Overall, an okay sequel that is followed by two more movies. Parker being told what to do by his mother reminded me a lot of Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th (1980) and his own mother. That being said, the similarity didn’t take away from the fear factor of the scenario. I definitely preferred the first movie though.

Insidious (2011)

Originally released in the United States on April 1st, 2011

“It’s not the house that’s haunted”

It begins in the all too familiar way. The Lambert family have moved into a new home and things seem to be going well but then, it wouldn’t be a horror movie if things didn’t go awry. Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) have two sons named Dalton (Ty Simpkins), Foster (Andrew Astor) and an infant daughter named Cali. Dalton, one night, is exploring the attic when he seems to be scared by something in the shadows and falls, and the next day he is found to be in a mysterious coma.

He’s treated for three months at a hospital but it’s when he is able to be brought back home, that things start getting paranormal. Renai begins to hear disembodied voices coming from Cali’s baby monitor, but there’s no one in the room, Foster tells his mom that Dalton sleep walks at night, but it all comes crashing down around the family when Renai is attacked by a figure in Cali’s room. They abandon the house and move. Lo and behold, the paranormal activity doesn’t stop there, and instead, Josh’s mom Lorraine shows up, played by Barbara Hershey, and reports a dream she had where there was a figure in Dalton’s room. We see a red-faced demon at this point, and the rest of the movie takes on a fast pace afterwards.

Lorraine recommends they call demonologist Elise Rainier, whom she had previously met because she had the same problem with Josh when he was a child. Josh himself, is skeptical when he is told that their son is actually quite skilled at astral projecting but in doing so, has ended up too far away and is now trapped in a place Elise calls ‘The Further.’ He then sees drawings that Dalton had in his room, that confirmed this theory. They decide to hold a seance but then a demon briefly possesses Dalton’s body, which Elise stops. She then goes on to explain that Josh did the same thing when he was younger, and it was only after they suppressed his memories that they felt they had stopped the problem.

It is at this point that we are introduced for the first time, to this woman in black that is thought to be obsessed with Josh, wanting to possess him. She’s been following him since he was a child, but with his memories suppressed, he was no longer astral projecting and interacting with her. Dalton, however, inherited this skill from his father and has gotten himself stuck. The only way to get him out is for Josh to astral project and go and get his son and bring him back.

The scenes of Josh in ‘The Further’ are really chilling, because he runs into various entities that are all wanting to come to life again, and take over the living. He finds Dalton, but they are attacked by the red-faced demon and they have to escape him. All the while, in the land of the living, the spirits are wreaking havoc on Elise and the others. Sending Dalton ahead of him, Josh confronts the woman in black and tells her to leave him alone, she disappears and he returns to his body, and the spirits disappear.

Afterwards, Elise is packing up the equipment when she feels Josh come up behind her. Something catches her eye, and out of curiosity she takes a photo of him. This enrages him and he strangles her to death. Renai is the one to find Elise’s body and looks at the photo, and we see that the woman in black is at the forefront, no longer in the background. Josh approaches, she turns around and upon seeing him, gasps and the movie ends.

My thoughts

This was the beginning of my exposure to James Wan, the director behind films such as Saw (2004), Dead Silence (2007) and the well-known Conjuring Universe that came after Insidious. This universe includes the aforementioned Conjuring movies, the first one coming out in 2013, and the Annabelle movies, the first of which came out in 2014. I like to believe that Insidious was the gateway horror movie that helped me fall in love with the genre. One of my favorite franchises being the Conjuring Universe. What made this movie so fascinating was this idea that the people themselves were being haunted; moving houses wouldn’t help.

I’ll get more into this in the following Insidious movie reviews, but Elise Rainier is the unsuspected star of this movie for me. Especially since we hadn’t seen The Conjuring (2013) yet, so the idea of the story following the ghost hunter & demonologist group rather than the family wasn’t super common at this point.

The part where Renai sees the little boy dancing in her house to that Tiny Tim song “Tiptoe Through The Tulips” rocked me to my core and I couldn’t hear that song for a while without getting scared. (Fun fact: Tiny Tim was a guest singer on the pilot episode of Spongebob Squarepants.)

I only thought it was normal to begin my spooky season series with the movie that ignited my love for the genre.

Have you guys seen Insidious? What did you think of it?